Bittersweet Book Club

If you loved Hy Vong, the legendary Vietnamese restaurant on 8th Street that’s now closed, and miss their delicious food, you’re in luck! They’re now doing pick ups in South Miami. The next one is this Saturday, September 10th. You select the items you want and the time you want to pick it up on their website. I tried to order for the last pick-up in July, but they sold out.

Besides Vietnamese favorites like Green Papaya Salad and Barbecued Pork with rice noodles, made by Tung Nguyen, there’s also Mantoo. Mantoo is a meat dumpling with meat sauce and quark (a soft cheese), made by Naijai, an Afghan mother of four. She is now cooking with Tung and Kathy Manning, the founders of Hy Vong. The website to order is>collections>pick-ups.

Monday I tried a dish everyone’s been raving about- Ina Garten’s Cauliflower Toasts. I’d made a delicious Vegetable Soup (from Cooking Classy), with carrots, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and peas; I used her suggestion to use a Parmesan Rind to add flavor. You know the rind of the Parmesan Cheese that’s hard and you have left after you’ve grated it to the end? Save and freeze them! You can add them to Red Pasta Sauce or soups to add a delicious depth of flavor. I love to make a big pot of healthy soup on Monday, to eat that night and have on hand for lunch and snacks throughout the week.

Anyway, I made a big pot of the Vegetable Soup, but since we were having Emma and Gui , I needed something more substantial for dinner, so I made the Cauliflower Toasts. You first trim and chop up the cauliflower into florets, roast them with olive oil and red pepper and then add them to a mixture with Marscapone (Italian cheese similar to cream cheese), Gruyere cheese, prosciutto and nutmeg. I didn’t have prosciutto, so used smoked ham and I reduced the amount of cheese.

You then heap this mixture onto 6 large slices of country-style toast and broil them until the cheese melts. You were supposed to then sprinkle them with salt, Parmesan and chives, but I skipped the salt and cheese, because they were cheesy enough! The verdict? It was the perfect accompaniment to the Vegetable Soup, adding crunch, salt and richness to my virtuous soup. They were VERY rich and cheesy! Zeke and I were saying crab meat would be good instead of the cauliflower, but honestly an old shoe would’ve tasted good with all that cheese! They would make a lovely, hearty appetizer with a glass of wine, but I would make the toasts smaller, in that case. Look for the recipe on the Food Network website.

My Book Club for the book Bittersweet was at my house Wednesday night. On a whim, I e-mailed the author, Susan Cain, telling her about our meeting and she e-mailed me back, saying she was touched and to have fun. Her website ( made it so easy to plan a Book Club meeting on her book! It had Questions for the Book Club, a Writing Prompt and even a Bittersweet Playlist on Spotify. I’d already started my own playlist of Bittersweet songs, but this was a no-brainer. She posted photos of our Book Club meeting on her Facebook page.

Bittersweet Book Club meeting. Post-its (you’ll have to read the book to find out) with favorite quotes from the book.

As an added treat, Sumita (who started our Book Club) brought a rep for Scout & Cellar, a wine club, to do a wine tasting before the meeting. Scout & Cellar wine was founded by a female lawyer who was tired of getting headaches from the wine she drank. When she researched it, she discovered the FDA doesn’t regulate the ingredients that go into wine. She then went to different wineries, seeking out clean-crafted wine, without pesticides, artificial ingredients or added sugar. These are the wines Scout & Cellar sells.

Emmy, the Scout and Cellar rep, served us three wines- a bubbly, a rose and a red blend. She showed a chart of how Scout and Cellar wines compared, sugar-wise, to popular wines like Santa Margherita and La Crema. The difference was eye opening! The wines were delicious and three of us signed up for the delivery service. I even got a donation for Vinos at the Venetian– a wine auction for the Coral Gables Community Foundation on September 23rd.

Of course I had to think about what foods were “Bittersweet” to go with the theme of the book. The signature cocktail was a Passionfruit Martini (see previous post for the recipe), which I served with dessert. I served three cheeses (all purchased at Trader Joes) with bittersweet fruits of starfruit, blackberries and Granny Smith Apples. I wanted dinner to be “Summery”, so I made Roasted Lemon Pepper Chicken, Zucchini Casserole, an Arugula and Cherry Tomato Salad and Corn on the Cob. Guta brought a delicious Pound Cake made with Creme Fraiche and eggs from the Hudson Valley (where her daughter lives) and garnished it with yellow kiwi slices and blackberries. I made Semi-sweet Brownies (Wyatt helped) and homemade Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream.

It is true That this world of dew Is a world of dew But even so …


We had a lively discussion about the book (which everyone liked) and then, everyone left and it was quiet; it was 10 p.m. and I was tired. Although I’d tried to do as much as possible ahead (set the table, marinate the chicken, make the charcuterie plate), I’d also picked up Wyatt from school and watched him for a couple hours that day. I also feel that no matter how much you plan, there are always things you need to do at the last minute (light candles, fill water glasses) whenever you have guests over for dinner. Our next book is The Year of Dangerous Days, Riots, Refugee and Cocaine in Miami 1980. Many of us were living in Miami at that time (it was the year my son Brad was born), so it should be interesting.

The Hungry Post (another food website) listed the “Hot New Restaurants” in Miami. Of those she listed, I would like to try Lion and the Rambler, Vinya Table (both in Coral Gables) and Amal (Coconut Grove). And, believe it or not, I’ve yet to try a Miami Spice this summer. That will be remedied Friday night at Michael’s Genuine.

It is HOT here in Miami, but apparently also hot in many other places that it normally isn’t. In Europe, they’ve been having record heat waves, causing an olive oil shortage. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil, supplying 1/2 of the olive oil in the world and its supply has been greatly reduced. Italy, another big producer, is experiencing the worst drought in 500 years. This has caused an olive oil shortage, because the olives are falling off the trees prematurely and the amount produced may decrease by 20-30%. The price of olive oil is destined, like everything else in the grocery store, to increase substantially.

While we have so many streaming services now and so many viewing options, I’ve found myself watching Parks and Recreation reruns (T.V. series with Amy Poehler) lately. There’s something about the world being in constant crisis that makes me want to watch a good comedy. Call me crazy. I find all the characters in this series hysterically funny, in their own quirky way. It’s kind of like escaping to Mayberry for half an hour, but in Pawhnee, Indiana.

My favorite escape.

A little light looks through her bedroom window. She dances and I dream She’s not so far as she seems Of brighter meadows, melting sunsets Her hair blowing in the breeze And she can’t see me watching

I’m thinking Love, love, love, love, love

It’s bittersweet, more sweet than bitter Bitter than sweet It’s a bittersweet surrender

Big Todd Head Todd and the Monsters

Up Next: What’s fresh at the Farmer’s Market

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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